, 06 June, 2020 / 1:47 AM
Following the easing of the ban on public gatherings in Ghana, which the country’s President declared, Catholic Bishops in the West African nation have announced the resumption of public Mass in their respective jurisdictions under strict safety guidelines, giving separate dates for inaugural liturgical gatherings.
In a televised address to the nation May 31, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo eased the restrictions imposed on religious activities by directing that public worship could resume beginning Friday, June 5 with only a maximum of 100 worshippers at a time.
In the Archdiocese of Kumasi, Archbishop Gabriel Justice Anokye has directed that churches reopen from Sunday, June 14 to give enough time to put in place safety measures.
In his June 3 letter to the Priests, Religious and lay faithful, Archbishop Anokye announced the cancellation, “until further notice,” of faith rallies, congresses, religious professions, pilgrimages to Grottos and this year’s priestly ordination that had been slated to take place on July 11, an event that would attract large gatherings.
The Archdiocese of Cape Coast is taking an even more gradual approach to the reopening of churches than Kumasi.
“No Mass will be held at the Outstations until June 28,” Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle directed in a memo issued by his Vicar General.
He added, “On Sunday, June 7, 2020 only Parish Advisory Board and the Presidents and catechists of the outstations are to attend Mass on this day to be followed by a discussion on preparation for Holy Mass for numbers not more than 100 members.”
On his part, Bishop Joseph Afrifah-Agyekum of Koforidua Diocese directed the Clergy and the Religious in his jurisdiction not to resume church activities on Sunday, June 7 until an official communication is given.
“In the meantime, we are working hard on some protocols that will guide the diocese. This will be discussed thoroughly and after a general consensus is reached the final decision will be communicated to you about when we can reassemble for church services,” Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum directed.
In the Archdiocese of Accra, Archbishop John Bonaventure Kwofie emphasized the need to have in place safety measures before the resumption of public worship.
“I wish to emphasize from the outset that even though churches are permitted to congregate with not more than 100 people from Sunday, no parish or church in the Archdiocese is obliged to implement this unless the requisite logistics that guarantee a safe opening and operation have been put in place,” Archbishop Kwofie stated in his June 3 message.
He added, “Parish Priests are to work with their Parish Councils bearing in mind that the safety and well-being of parishioners override all other considerations.”
In the message, Archbishop Kwofie granted permission to Priests to offer anticipatory Mass on Saturday evenings where needed.
“Also, each Priest has my permission to celebrate two Masses on Weekdays and three Masses on Sundays,” he further said and added, “Masses can be celebrated concurrently in the church, at the grotto or in the parish hall at any given time.”
In addition to other directives issued by the Church in Ghana before, Archbishop Kwofie directed that there be a maximum of five choristers and two altar servers, if need be, at Mass.
At a national level, the Bishops under their common forum of Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference underscored the need to adhere to preventive measures amid the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
“As the President of the Republic has eased certain restrictions placed on public gatherings, we, your Bishops, are aware that the resumption of liturgical celebrations may involve some risks,” the Bishops said in their collective message dated June 4.
“Nonetheless, the Church in Ghana desires to prudently manage those risks so as to create an environment that will minimize the adverse impact of the virus on society,” the Bishops say in their statement signed by GCBC President, Archbishop Philip Naameh.
They note, “In a spirit of charity and with a concern for the common good, we urge Catholics not to take unnecessary risks with their health or engage in behaviors that place the health of others at risk.”
In their June 4 statement, the Bishops in Ghana insist that vulnerable groups are exempted from attending Mass during the ongoing pandemic until the dispensation is revoked.
“For personal safety reasons, persons with higher vulnerability to the virus, such as the aged and sick, are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the dispensation and refrain from attending public Masses,” the Bishops advise.
According to the Bishops, anyone with any kind of acute symptoms, a fever or recent exposure to an infected person should not attend Mass and Priests should make occasional pastoral visits to those who cannot attend Mass.
“The visits should be brief and limited to offering Confession and Holy Communion while observing all the safety recommendations,” the Bishops say in their collective statement.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa